You are a new mama and everything is evolving, reevaluating and it is not all rainbows and sunshine. You scour the internet for hours, Google searching every little thing, pretty sure my search history for the first few months looked a little alarming. And of course the newborn fog, sleep deprivation, and suffering postpartum anxiety…That being said, getting back on the bike and picking up running again were what helped keep me going.
Bug was born in June of 2018, and the next day I muscled up a half mile walk down to our neighbors house. And no, I do not recommend that to new mamas but please listen to your body! A few days later I was back up to my mile loop and Bug was loving her stroller. But it hasn’t been an easy journey. Running was always my escape but now I felt like I not only had to relearn how to run but also now had this adventure of navigating running with my new little shadow.
Our stroller became my freedom. Forcing me to get out of the house and paving the road back to working out. I knew I couldn’t bike with Bug right off the bat, so every day we stretched out our walks and eventually started running again. We have a Thule jog stroller, we love it. I’ve used other jog strollers and they were great too. The best suggestion I can give is to find a moms running group and ask if you can test a few out when you're just a few months pregnant. I asked our local "Moms Run This Town and tried a Thule, some BOB strollers, and some knock off brands. I concluded that I liked the simplicity of Thule and stuck with it but the majority of my mom friends preferred BOB.
As soon as I felt that Bug was ready for running we took off. And boy the freedom to run again felt amazing. We went every morning. That being said, running with kids is not easy and it took lots of cursing and back to Google searching to figure out why it is such a challenge to run with a stroller. Even tapped into my Strava network and asked questions in my Strava activities and a number of my friends jumped to help give me some pointers! Thank you dads, I see you all running with your kids too and this is for you too!!
With that, here are some tips I’ve picked up over the last 4.5 years of running with strollers.
The Front Wheel If your stroller locks the front wheel, do it! Ours locks in two positions, forward and then inward to the stroller. Originally I would lock the wheel forward but then I’d spend a mile fighting the stroller to stay straight. It didn’t matter how many times I slightly adjusted the wheel. It constantly would go right or go left. I felt hopeless, I remember calling my husband in tears that it had been a few months and I still couldn’t figure out how to confidently run and push the stroller. I got some great tips from my Strava Dad buddies and they gave me the encouragement to keep trying. My next run I accidentally realized I could lock the wheel inward and it was a game changer. That was the magic sauce for me, no more fighting the stroller and it was easy to run and slightly push with one hand to redirect.
Running position. The bars of the stroller are adjustable and I am notorious for moving them up and down throughout a run depending on my comfort. I also prefer to stand slightly to the left of the stroller and push with my right hand. I think this is in part because my running devices won’t pick up cadence if I keep my left hand on the stroller so I started just using my right to push. See, a number of watches detect cadence by the movement of your arm, if you're holding on to something or your arm appears to be stationary, it may not pick up any movement or in this case, does not record cadence. Some friends put their watches around their ankles too. A year ago I picked up a Stryd and that resolved the issue.
A happy kid. My family rule is no screen time or amplified music while we are outside. I find it takes away from what nature has to offer and it is important for them to learn how to be bored. I’m also not going to stop a hundred times because it is the wrong show, not the song they want, and honestly it is just an added hassle so we’ve never done it and will never have screens outside. That being said, you do you, we’ve just been rocking that and it has worked. However, we bring lots of snacks and water. And I mean, a lot of snacks. We are up to 10 to 13 mile runs on occasion and that means we bring enough snacks to entertain for at least two hours or more. I have a snack tray that holds all their goodies and then keep the special snacks underneath in the stroller bin.
Strava Routes I love Strava routes. Not only can I plan distances ahead of time and estimate how long I’ll be out for. But I can also look into the hills, how hard will it be to push the stroller up, add the routes to my watches, share with my husband where I’m going, and I can also add in a few park stops along the way. Now with POI’s (points of interest) I’m able to find water stations as needed, double check terrain, and find the paved paths that are away from cars!
Parks. Thanks to using routes, I love finding new parks within our running distance. I like to end (within two miles of home) most runs on the weekend with a park. If mama gets her fun in, so can they. Weekdays, mama’s got work so if it’s the summer it’s a homemade popsicle or outside free play time. Which brings me to…stopping.
Stopping. Interval training at its finest. You stop a lot. A dropped binky, opening a new snack, sun in their eyes, cold and want a blanket, shoes fell off, don’t want socks on, the list goes on and on. You get into a groove and boom. Sorry, mom. Brake, check, pause, breathe, unlock, go. Repeat. Tip: if you're tight on time and your little one is starting to be vocal. Have them do start and stops for internal training. Bug would say “go mama” and “stop mama” and I’d switch between sprints and jogs. Kid giggles are the best while working out.
Dirt. The Thule works well on dirt. No problem there. I just prefer hiking over running and then use a backpack carrier for the little one.
Mama cockpit. Accessories for the Thule and having easy access for goodies is important. Place for phone, water, garage opener, snacks, oh and all the devices I’m testing.
Races. If you find one that lets you enter with a stroller, the chances are they make you start in the back. Yup, behind the walkers. Nothing against walkers, but passing hundreds of people taking up the entire road group chatting, while you zig zag your way around with a stroller is not exactly enjoyable. Exciting and motivating but not enjoyable unless you are into games of dodging people and trying to not hit heels of hundreds of participants. Tips for racing, playing eye spy and how many people can you wave to.
Naps. We took lots of naps on runs. Between the fresh air, movement of the stroller, sound of the wind blowing, which meant there were many times I’d either adjust my run on the fly to keep going or push the stroller into the house to let her keep sleeping. Did you know they actually make a device to keep your stroller moving if you park it inside to keep littles sleeping? Woah. You can literally find anything on the internet.
Segments. What a great way to push yourself personally and see how you are improving. After having kids it can take a while to get back into a groove and you may not even realize the improvements you are making on a daily basis! I used segments as a personal motivator to not only get out there and beat my times from the months prior but also fell in love with local legends and the reward for consistency of getting out every day for our daily walks at first too.
Beacon. I always turn Beacon on. Either directly from my phone, Apple Watch, or using Garmin. This helps give my husband and myself a little comfort in knowing where I am and seeing our progress. We also beacon so he can send me little texts of motivation, especially when I started out running longer distances again.
Training Log / Calendar. I like to hype myself up. Maybe I need it more than others but I find great pride in looking at my logged distances and recognizing my effort and commitment. Especially while juggling mom life, workout life, work life, and just general life. Each and every one of those is an accomplishment and I think it is something to celebrate. The training log gives me a picture that shows my process. More times than not I’ve actually surprised myself at my historical progress and it continues to motivate me for the future.
Rain. Well, California doesn’t see a lot of this stuff but that being said, a good rain cover keeps you going. Also used this when those mornings were just too cold or a little too windy.
Party of two. In 2020 we welcomed our second little one, Bear. Our double running stroller was delayed so I spent the first three weeks walking like this:
It was a longer recovery but I ran through the entire pregnancy so it wasn’t as rough as a transition back. And again, the stroller was my freedom out of the house. Now. Things changed once two were in the picture. More snacks. More breaks. And now we introduced fighting. The double Thule has a slimmer seat base so they sit close to each other. And I mean, close, now that they are getting bigger.
But wait…Strava doesn’t have a stroller tag. Correct, I know this is a feature request from many amazing parents but in the meantime I have a great little trick that gets the job done. For me, I really want to count the distance accumulated by pushing a stroller so I created my running shoe gear as my strollers— ha, it’s not perfect but it works.
Also check out used gear online. These strollers go through a lot but they are pretty indestructible. You can get some amazing deals on used jogging strollers. Bonus, you can chat with the families on how they were jogging with them and they probably already have accessories!
Running/biking strollers. This could probably be its own post…biking with kids but when we travel we just bring a bike trailer that converts to a running stroller. The double bike trailer is also my winter stroller because I didn’t get a rain cover for the Thule. We’ve had some fun in the rain that’s for sure. Californian. What can I say.
Now the kids are getting older so our set up is changing a bit as we grow. But I’ll keep the double for a bit longer for those longer runs until Bug is big enough to ride the whole way. For now we mix it up with push bike runs, walks, pulls with the pedal bike or combos of it all.
So why don’t I just leave them at home? I’m with the kids nearly 24/7. My amazing husband works really hard and on weekends if he can sneak out for a bike ride I take the opportunity to go for my long run, which means I take the kids. It’s our set up and it works for us. Sometimes I get out for a solo run but honestly, I’m so used to my little cheerleaders tagging along at this point I don’t mind one bit. Added bonus, I don’t look too silly singing to a stroller of kiddos where I may turn some heads if I was running by myself.
What is your running set up with kids? Post a pic, share your story, share your tips! How has Strava helped keep you motivated while juggling kids?
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